Thursday storms bring 3,400 lightning strikes

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— Fire officials are on alert after recent afternoon thunderstorms resulted in thousands of lightning strikes across the region.

U.S. Forest Service Assistant Fire Management Officer Erick Stahlin said storms on Thursday resulted in 3,400 lightning strikes in Northwest Colorado. That number includes both cloud-to-cloud and cloud-to-ground strikes. Both types of strikes can cause fires, Stahlin said.

Forest Service firefighters were working on two small fires Friday in the Routt National Forest in the Seedhouse Road area of North Routt. The fires were mostly confined to single trees and were caused by lightning strikes. Stahlin said the rain that accompanied the storms helped keep the fires from spreading, but the moisture is providing only temporary relief.

“It’s going to help us out for the next two, three days or however long this moisture continues on,” Stahlin said.

A lightning map included in the daily briefing prepared by Craig Interagency Dispatch helps show where Thursday’s storms were the most intense. The map shows the strongest concentration of lightning strikes was from Milner south toward the Flat Tops Wilderness Area. Lightning strikes also were scattered throughout the Routt National Forest.

The National Weather Service is predicting a chance of thunderstorms through Sunday. Dark clouds and rolling thunder pushed through Steamboat Springs on Friday afternoon and evening. Dozens of lightning strikes were visible from city limits late in the afternoon.

Stage 2 fire restrictions remain in effect for all lands in Routt County, including the national forest, state parks and the city of Steamboat Springs. No campfires or charcoal grills are allowed. Fireworks, outdoor smoking and anything else that produces a flame are prohibited. However, devices that use pressurized liquid gas, such as propane grills, are permitted.

To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247 or email mstensland@SteamboatToday.com

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